Thought to be descendants of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, almost 120,000 Ethiopian Jews now live in Israel, having completed the Aliyah, immigrating in groups since the 1980s. The last 2,000 Falash Mura will make the journey to their promised land by the end of this summer.
From the fourth century onward, these wanderers have experienced persecution and discrimination, and most converted to Christianity through the centuries. However, in order to return to Israel, the Falash Mura were required to renounce Christianity and convert to Judaism. Some were unable to do so and remain in Ethiopia because they cannot meet the legal definition of Jewishness, based on maternity. A Jewish mother qualifies the emigrant for Israeli citizenship, while a Jewish father does not.
I have visited and taught in Ethiopia many times. I discovered a country rich in history, tradition and culture. Among the sub-Saharan African nations, Ethiopia alone was never conquered or colonized by outsiders, except for a very few years of Italian occupation. While Mussolini left some good roads and instilled a love of Italian cookery, all Ethiopians are rightfully proud of their independent nation and vibrant culture.
Every Ethiopian child—Christian, Muslim or animist—is raised believing the Ark of the Covenant is physically present in the north of the country in a small town called Axum. The unbroken line of Ethiopian emperors extends from Menelik I, the child of Sheba and Solomon, until the death of Haile Selassie in 1975, murdered by the communist government.
I have mixed feelings about the fate of the Falash Mura. Many are experiencing the joy and hope of living in a nation that recognizes and affirms their personhood without the overt discrimination and pain experienced in their homeland. Yet the requirement for those who were Christians to convert in order to meet the requirements of immigration is troubling. For some, the new inheritance of the Falash Mura represents the perishing and fading of their centuries-long history.
Conversely, the apostle Peter spoke of the inheritance we received as believers. Not only does this provide great hope for us personally, but also it is our message to those we disciple and lead. Peter’s words are clear and compelling:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5, NIV).
Even though we may be scattered to the ends of the earth, pulled up by the roots, and exiled from all we may have known, the goodness of God is anchored in the living hope He gives us through the resurrection of His son, Jesus Christ. Our inheritance, unlike that of the Falash Mura, is secured and settled through our faith in Christ.
I’m mindful of the deep love of every Ethiopian for his or her country, culture and history. This serves as an eloquent reminder that wherever God takes us, we can know the source of our inheritance—and how God’s faithfulness serves to guarantee our future and our salvation. Will you join me in taking this message of hope to all whom God has entrusted to our care?
By: Jim J. Adams, president of Life Pacific College in San Dimas, Calif.
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